Monday, 23 July 2012

The Best Of 1981 - part 2

JUMP TO: 30-21 II 20-11 II 10-1

For the second part of our trip through the best that 1981 had to offer, we'll go from number 20 to number 11 - and we've (mostly) left the American power rock behind. What will we find instead? Here's a clue...
Planet Earth embraced Duran Duran in 1981

Before we get to the new romantics, at number 20 is a soul classic: “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross, a song I was introduced to thanks to a 1989 remix, which was about the time he broke through in a major way in the States. In Australia, he wouldn't chart until his duets with Janet Jackson (on 1992's "The Best Things In Life Are Free") and Mariah Carey (on their 1994 cover of "Endless Love"), both of which reached number 2 here.

Two decades before she perfected the art of fence-sitting on Australian Idol, at number 19 it’s “Your Love Still Brings Me To My Knees” by Marcia Hines. This was Marcia's last big hit, but she'd spent the previous five years as a major star in this country. This song was a fitting end to a great pop career.

At number 18 it's "My Own Way" by Duran Duran, which was the fourth single of the year by the British band. "My Own Way" never appears on the band's compilation albums, probably because it only got to number 14 in the UK. In Australia, it did slightly better, making it to number 10 and is an overlooked classic. More from DD before we get to number 1...

How about some Australian power rock? At number 17 it's "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield, who was actually nicely settled in the States by this point and embarking on his daytime soap career in General Hospital. Rick's often mistakenly considered to be a one-hit wonder, but he followed this number 1 single with "I've Done Everything For You" and "Don't Talk To Strangers". If you don't know those songs, look 'em up, they're quite good.

I always associate the song at number 16 with nearly drowning. "Stand And Deliver" by Adam & The Ants was another hit for the British group (although a number 12 peak in Australia was somewhat disappointing), and I always recall seeing the 7" single in the record collection of some family friends when I was about six or seven and being very envious. What's that got to do with almost drowning? Well, before rifling through their vinyl stash, I'd fallen into the family's backyard swimming pool (this was before the days of compulsory pool fences). After my dad dived in to pull me out, I was whisked inside for a hot bath and change of clothes. Trust me to turn the situation into an opportunity to wander around the house and track down the music. It would be a good six years before I'd buy my own first 7" single, so I understand the fascination I must have had for other people's records. Good thing I wasn't a klepto.

At number 15"History Never Repeats" by Split Enz, who Australia had more or less claimed as our own, never mind the fact that they were from New Zealand - something we'd see again and again over the years. It always amuses me when we take credit for a successful music artist or actor (see also: Bee Gees, Russell Crowe) simply because they spent a bit of time on our shores, although we're also more than willing to remember exactly where someone's from when it suits us (see also: Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe).

Number 14 is "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police, who'd had a pretty good chart run in Australia the previous few years. There's not much else to say about this one - it's a great track that's stood the test of time. C'mon, not every song can have a life-or-death anecdote!

A pure pop delight is at number 13: "Star" by Kiki Dee, who will always be best known for duetting with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" back in 1976. This track wasn't successful in Australia, which may explain why it took until the 2000s for me to hear it. When I did, it was being used in a piece of video performance art at Sydney's Museum Of Contemporary Art. "Star" played while the artist held a party for one in her own living room - something I'll admit to doing myself once I bought the song. There are two different videos for the song, one below and one if you click the song title above.

Number 12 is "Let's Hang On" by Barry Manilow, which got to number 4 in Australia and remains his last top 10 hit in this country. The song is a cover of The Four Seasons' 1965 hit and I don't think I've ever seen the kitsch-tastic video until now. My memories of this song come from it playing on the radio of our Torana while I sat in the back, squashed into the middle seat clutching an ice cream container in case I got car sick (quite a regular occurence, and, despite what some of you may think, nothing to do with Barry). Gee, I was a problematic child.

Proving there can be life after Eurovision at number 11: "The Land Of Make Believe" by Bucks Fizz. It got to number 15 here to be their second biggest hit (after "Making Your Mind Up", obviously). In 1985, my teacher used this song for what must have been a decidedly low impact aerobics class. The fact that we also learned how to do the barn dance (step two three kick, step back two three together) to "Physical" (also from 1981) suggests she'd used the same tape of songs for several years.

That just leaves my top 10 for 1981 - and some of that promised synthpop will finally make an appearance as well as the debut of my third favourite female singer of all time.

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